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Are “marijuana gifts” legal in Massachusetts?

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – If you want to get marijuana from someone in Massachusetts, you don’t have to look very hard.

Maybe you’ve seen the websites. The 22News I-Team found one website that offers a gift of marijuana with the purchase of a $175 t-shirt, and a Craigslist ad that offers weed in exchange for a $90 empty sandwich bag.

Attorney Adam Fine, who helped write the law, told the I-Team that the marijuana gifts these websites are offering was not the intent of it. However, we discovered there’s a giant loophole in the law that may have turned the legalization of recreational pot into a goldmine for potential drug dealers.

Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said he’s well aware of that provision; “There’s a provision in the law around the legalization where without an exchange of money, it allows for the gifting of marijuana to a certain amount.”

Gulluni also said what these websites are doing is not legal; “They’re misinterpreting the law, and trying to exercise what they would consider a loophole in that “gift” aspect of the new law, which I think is very clearly illegal.”

According to the provision, it’s legal for adults, “To give away or transfer without remuneration up to one ounce of marijuana…to a person 21-years of age or older, as long as the transfer is not advertised or promoted to the public.”

The founder of the website that gives away marijuana for expensive t-shirts declined our request for an on-camera interview. Despite the fact they have a public website, they cited the section of the law that bans marijuana transfers from being promoted or advertised to the public, as the reason for not being able to do the interview.

The founder of the website sent the I-Team a statement instead, which reads in part:

We intend to follow the letter of the law. As you know the new Massachusetts marijuana law currently allows for giving a gift of up to one ounce of marijuana to a person over 21, with conditions.

The marijuana gifts these entrepreneurs are offering haven’t been challenged by prosecutors, and the gifting provision in the law hasn’t been changed by lawmakers.

Residents will not be able to legally buy marijuana or marijuana seeds in Massachusetts until 2018, but if you happen to have it, no one can question you.

The 22News I-Team asked Senate President Stan Rosenberg whether lawmakers and law enforcement are simply turning a blind eye. He replied, “That’s a reasonable way to describe it. It’s a kind of, looking the other way.”

The I-Team also asked Rosenberg whether the legislature will address the issue of people giving away “marijuana gifts” with the purchase of a product. He said he doesn’t think that’ll be addressed in the short run.

The Senate President also told the I-Team the state went through a similar issue with medical marijuana. He said residents could obtain medical cards shortly after the law passed in 2012, but the first medical marijuana dispensary didn’t open until 2015.

Rosenberg said he believes recreational “marijuana gifts” will no longer be a problem once retail pot shops open in 2018.

Gulluni told the I-Team he doesn’t think the problem will be resolved until it eventually ends up in court.

To read the state’s recreational marijuana law, Click Here.

Here’s what adults 21+ can do:

  • Possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana outside of home.
  • Possess up to 10 ounces of pot in home.
  • Transfer up to an ounce of pot to another adult, without the exchange of money, and without being advertised or promoted to the public.
  • Cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants in home, per individual, or up to 12 plants per household if more than one adult live there

Here’s what adults 21+ cannot do:

  • Sell Marijuana without a retail license.
  • Drive under the influence of marijuana.
  • Have open containers of marijuana in your car, unless it’s in the trunk or a glove compartment.
  • Cannot grow marijuana plants if they can be seen from the street or any public area.
  • Cannot bring marijuana across state lines or send it in the mail.
  • Possess, purchase, grow or smoke marijuana if under the age of 21.
  • Give marijuana to someone under the age of 21.
  • Smoke marijuana in a public
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(Story Archive from April 27, 2017)

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The essential guide to buying and consuming pot in Massachusetts

A s I walked into a wood-trimmed Banana Republic-looking shop in Denver a few years ago, my brain registered a skunky floral scent.

Oh my God — I’m in a weed store.

It’s probably a combination of all the funny stoner movies I saw growing up, the “just say no” classes we were forced to sit through, and the possession busts I’d seen, but a part of me couldn’t believe they were selling pot in a store, all nonchalantly, as if it were sweaters and jeans. The guy behind the counter smiled over a glass-cased shelf of green buds and some other mysterious-looking products that I couldn’t identify but assumed were some exotic forms of marijuana.

There were many more choices than I realized. I was clearly out of my depth.

If you’ve never bought legal pot, visiting one of Massachusetts’s 22 recreational cannabis stores for the first time can feel surreal and pretty cool, but also maybe a little intimidating.

Hundreds of thousands of folks from all over the East Coast — many first-timers — have flocked to the state’s retail outlets since they started opening in November of last year, buying a staggering $291 million worth of products.

From fears of looking stupid to fears of getting too high, pot shoppers seem to share a few common concerns. Deep breaths, people — this guide will have you shopping for pot like an old hand.

Before You Go

First, figure out which shop you want to visit, and check out its website. One store, Garden Remedies in Newton, requires customers to book appointments. Nearly all shops allow ordering ahead online, so when you arrive, you might be able to skip the line, pick up your stuff, and be on your mellow way.

Peruse the online menu for the store you plan to visit, but make sure you’re looking at the recreational section. Certain products are available only to people with medical cards.

If you’re a newbie, it’s probably a good idea to think through what kind of experience you want so the staff can guide you. Do you want to make folding laundry or mopping the kitchen slightly more fun? Do you want to watch a comedy and perhaps laugh a bit harder? Maybe you need something before bed to help wind down after work?

Or perhaps you’re interested in certain medical benefits associated with marijuana? If so, consider seeing a cannabis-specialist clinician who can advise you on the best course of action. Some of the most common conditions for which people report finding relief from using cannabis are insomnia, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, according to Dr. Jordan Tishler, a physician who runs InhaleMD, a private practice specializing in cannabis therapies.

The Strains

Each store carries a variety of strains and combinations of strains with quirky names such as Girl Scout Cookies, Ninja Fruit, and Black Triangle Kush. Ask your budtender for a recommendation based on the sensation you’re looking for. You can also check out strain reviews on the cannabis website Leafly.

These are for relaxation. Sometimes called “in-da-couch,” they’re often described as calming, soothing, pain relieving, and good for nighttime or bedtime. But be careful – the couch thing is real. Gravity can start to feel extra strong. In other words, you might not want to smoke an indica strain before going to a party.

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This popular strain elicits an amplified, uplifted, cerebral sensation. While no cannabis acts as a stimulant, some people report that they find the sativa high more energizing than indica’s. It can sometimes make your heart feel as if it’s beating a bit faster, and, if overdone, can make some people more anxious or paranoid.

These are a mixture of indica and sativa, sometimes leaning more toward one than the other and producing a combination effect.

High-CBD Strains

If you don’t really want to get high but would like to feel a slight lift, ask about strains that are high in CBD (cannabidiol). CBD can counteract some of the effects of THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in pot) and has been linked to medicinal benefits like anxiety relief. Such products may be labeled 1:1, for their ratio of CBD to THC.

The Goods

The wide variety of options can feel daunting, even for seasoned consumers. To keep it simple, remember that you have two main decisions to make — which strain you’d like to try and which delivery method is best for you.

Note: We’ve listed typical prices here, but what you’ll pay varies depending on quantity, quality, and source.

Let’s start with the raw green buds that we all know as pot. Dispensaries call it “flower” because that’s what it is: the flowers that female cannabis plants produce for pollination and reproduction. (Nature!) One key benefit of flower is that there are plenty of options when choosing a strain.

Cost: $50 for an “eighth,” or one-eighth of an ounce, or seven half-gram joints

These are pre-rolled joints of different types of flower. You may not have as many choices as you would when buying loose flower, but they’re convenient and ready to be sparked up at a moment’s notice.

Cost: $12 for one .75-gram joint

Often called vapes or vape pens, they are one of the most popular delivery methods, typically used with a concentrated oil that comes in varying strengths (ask your budtender to help you pick the strength that’s right for you). Vapes have the benefit of being discreet, emitting a relatively weak wisp of vapor and a mild smell that fades quickly. When vaping, it takes just a few seconds to experience the effect, and it feels less harsh on the throat and lungs than smoking flower.

The oils can be highly potent, so even a single toke can be a lot for an inexperienced consumer. My advice? Start with a tiny hit and give it a few minutes. To vape oil, you’ll need either a disposable vape pen that comes with a pre-filled cartridge and a built-in battery or a rechargeable battery unit that requires a separate cartridge. Most pot shops sell the battery unit, but if yours doesn’t, any traditional smoke shop can help you.

Cost (disposable vape pen): $40 for .3 gram, or 60 to 100 puffs

Cost (vape cartridges with concentrated marijuana oil): $60 for .5 gram, or about 80 to 150 puffs

Cost (battery unit for use with vape cartridges): $20

Flower Vaporizers

These devices vaporize flower and are expensive but allow smokers a choice of less potent marijuana with more potentially beneficial compounds.

Edibles and Pills

While these products are discreet and can be yummy, they can also be quite easy to overdo. By law, each package must contain a total of no more than 100 milligrams of THC, portioned into 5 milligram serving sizes. For example, a chocolate bar can contain 20 5-milligram squares. While not a large dose, 5 milligrams still may be too much for beginners. I suggest that beginners eat half an edible to start. Note that edibles can take 45 minutes to two hours to take effect, and how they affect you can depend on what you’ve eaten recently, how much you ate, and your body weight. I can’t stress this enough: Taking too much feels awful — the room may spin, your ears could ring, and you may suffer terrible anxiety, among other scary symptoms. Worse yet, the high can last for hours. Take the advice of Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a cannabis specialist and primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital: “Edibles are for experts, not for novices.”

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Cost: $20 for 100 milligrams

Sublingual (Under-the-Tongue) Tinctures

A faster alternative to edibles (they’re absorbed directly through the mouth), these liquids take effect about 15 minutes after being dropped under your tongue. Grinspoon recommends that first-timers start with one drop per day for a week or several days, then increase to two drops per day the following week, to find the right dosage.

Cost: $70 for 480 milligrams, or 480 droplets, of tincture; $40 for 10 10-milligram mints

Topical Salves and Creams

These are nonpsychoactive ways to relieve pain that some people swear by. They may contain THC or CBD, a compound that has been associated with medicinal benefits and doesn’t get you high. THC doesn’t enter the bloodstream this way, so these products won’t get you high.

Cost: $30 for a 4-ounce bottle of lotion

Shatter, Wax, Dabs, and Butter

Probably too strong for the weekend toker, these are highly concentrated extracts of cannabis that are typically smoked using a specialized glass water pipe called a dab rig.

Cost: $50 per gram

Beat the Lines

Lines can last for hours on weekends at some shops, but if you’re smart, you can save yourself a lot of time.

1. If you already know what you want, order online for pickup when you arrive.

2. Check the store’s Twitter and Facebook feeds to see if it posts wait times.

3. Go at odd hours during the week or workday. Try to avoid Friday nights and Saturdays, which tend to be busiest.

Before entering the store, your ID will be checked and probably scanned to verify that you’re over 21. Certain stores hold on to some of your information for internal use — such as determining where their customers are coming from — while others don’t keep it.

Sorry, No Credit

You’ll need cash or a debit card (and your PIN) to buy pot, although most stores have an ATM on site or nearby. Traditional credit cards aren’t accepted because pot is illegal at the federal level, making credit card companies reluctant to get involved. If bringing cash, remember to factor in the 20 percent tax — 17 percent to the state, and 3 percent to local government. And just a warning: Debit card transactions are usually run as “cashless ATMs,” so you may be charged a $3 to $3.50 service fee. Lastly, don’t forget to bring your government-issued ID to show you’re at least 21 years old.

Is the Pot Organic?

Yes! Massachusetts has a hard-line ban on pesticides — among the strictest out of the seven states with pot stores for recreational use. Before selling its products, each producer must pay for a representative sample to be lab tested for potency, mold, mildew, pesticides, and other contaminants.

Where Was It Grown?

Each product must originate and be produced within the state. Regulators track each plant from seed to sale to prevent anything from ending up on the black market. Most stores have their own grow facilities in the state, and those that don’t buy wholesale from other in-state cultivators.

Should I Get a Medical Card?

Between the state application and the doctor’s appointment, getting a medical card can cost a few hundred dollars, but it can save you money in the long run. That’s because you won’t be taxed the 20 percent that the state and local government collect from recreational purchases. (Plus, many stores offer further discounts to medical users.)